Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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The SAD Diet in Numbers

English: Photo by R L Sheehan of commercially ...

English: Photo by R L Sheehan of commercially available packages. For Wikipedia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not so good news about the Standard American Diet.  No wonder we are getting fatter and less healthy than in past decades. Will it ever turn around?  We need a major food culture change but I fear it only can change if we begin to educate our very youngest children’s palates to appreciate the taste and enjoyment of whole real foods again.


The following is an interesting discourse on infant feeding and how it can influence  eating habits later in life.


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Danger Foods!!

English: A hot dog. Français : Un hot-dog.

English: A hot dog. Français : Un hot-dog. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hate to publish negative food facts  and with any article of this type,  awareness is the main intent here.  As usual moderation is the key. The main points, in my opinion, involve the sprouts and the hot dogs for small children.


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Food Servings – Then and Now

English: Healthy nutrition pyramid with 7 to 9...

English: Healthy nutrition pyramid with 7 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables to get precious phytonutrients to feed your body at the cellular level. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the major causes, in my opinion, of the obesity problem in the U.S is the size of the portions we have come to accept as normal. It is always a shock to see the comparisons of serving sizes now as compared to those of 30 years ago.   Serving sizes are also a consideration on the new food labels.   For a visual comparison:


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Additive Problems?

English: Template for Template:Food safety

English: Template for Template:Food safety (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


It appears that some food additives are being added to processed foods without the proper testing methods  and are added under a new definition of the Generally Recognized  As Safe (GRAS) rules.  Watch out for Quorn (vegans beware) and carrageenan, in particular on the ingredient lists.  It makes one wonder what else is being added?  Do you have a food allergy?  Check out my previous post here.


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Food Safety – How To Protect Yourself

English: Template for Template:Food safety

English: Template for Template:Food safety (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The first community outbreak in the U.S. of E. coli 011:H8 sickened 58 teenagers at a cheer-leading camp in Texas. Suspected sources of infection included the camp salad bar and a communal water barrel. One of the largest E. coli 0157:H7 outbreaks on record infected more than 1000 people in upstate New York at a county fair. The bacterium was found in infected well water. It killed a 79-year-old man and a 4-year-old girl, and it required 10 other children to undergo kidney dialysis. Six adults and a 2-year-old child were killed after an E. coli outbreak from contaminated drinking water in Canada. The bacteria entered the water supply from animal manure after flooding from a heavy storm. In northeastern Oklahoma, five children were infected with E. coli after consuming unpasteurized apple cider. Recently 25 million pounds of hamburger had to be recalled because of potential E. coli 0157:H7 contamination.

Why is food-borne illness so common? Let me count the ways:

  • Problems with mishandling of food by consumers and food service workers is the most common reason.
  • Greater interest of eating foods of animal origin raw or undercooked.
  • Greater use of medications that suppress the immune system.
  • An increase in the number of older adults in the population
  • The food industry tries to increase the shelf life of food products.
  • Some bacteria can grow even at refrigerator temperatures.
  • More of our food is prepared in centralized kitchens outside the home and shipped to individual stores – prepackaged or in bulk.
  • We have supermarkets selling prepared foods as well as those that can be reheated.
  • We now import more ready-to-eat foods from other countries like seafood from Asia
  • Use of antibiotics in animals can encourage bacteria to develop resistant strains.
  • More cases of food-borne illness are being reported than in the past.
  • Our list of food-borne pathogens has increased.
  • Careless treatment of animals in slaughterhouses.
  • Overall the growth of large-scale food production and distribution technologies has introduced new and different food-borne risks.
  • What can we do?

WARNING: I  have taught microbiology for many years. Therefore, I am more than likely to be on the picky side of food-borne illness prevention. I am not the most fun person to have dinner with. I would be happy if I could inspect all kitchens when eating out and when I handle chicken, I would feel more comfortable wearing a Hazmat suit. I’ve heard some microbiology -type “people” like me who won’t even eat in restaurants. I do not go to that extreme. Just sayin’.

No matter the type of microorganism, these general prevention practices can help cut our risks of food-borne illness. I know the list is long but in time can be routine and save you and your family a lot of misery and maybe your life.  Most are no-brainers, but there may be some you had not thought of.


  • Only buy sushi form a reliable source to avoid tapeworms.
  • Avoid bagged salads and greens. Buy them whole and wash them yourself.
  • Promptly refrigerate all foods after shopping
  • Use an insulated bag to put perishable foods into when traveling in a hot car for home.
  • Avoid unpasteurized milk, raw eggs, or unpasteurized apple cider.


  • Wash your hands, wash your hands, and wash your hands.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking – even the ones with skins. If you cut them open, bacteria on the outside will move inside and contaminate the whole fruit.
  • Thaw meat in the refrigerator or in the microwave, not at room temperature. If using the microwave, use the defrost setting.
  • Use different cutting boards for different types of foods to avoid cross-contamination. Sanitize cutting boards and counter tops before and after food preparation. Avoid dirty kitchen towels and contaminated utensils (e.g. knives).
  • Sponges are probably most common source of contamination. Change or disinfect them often
  • Cover all cuts on your skin when preparing food – Staphylococcus live on our skin, primarily on our fingers and under fingernails


  • Thorough cooking of meat is mandatory – at least to 160 degrees F. This means beef, pork, wild game, seafood and fish. Use a reliable food thermometer
  • Serve the food on a clean plate – not the plate you took it to the grill with.


  • Thoroughly reheat leftover foods to 165 degrees F.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hold food below 40 degrees F. or above 140 degrees F. and don’t leave cooked foods at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour in hot weather).
  • Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure the temperature is below 40 degrees F.
  • Use refrigerated ground meat and patties in 1-2 days and frozen meat and patties within 3-4 months.
  • Throw out all refrigerated leftovers after four days.
  • Use an insulated pouch with an ice pack to carry perishable lunch items (meat-filled sandwiches, yogurt or cheese).
  • Do not store raw eggs or milk on the refrigerator door since the temperature here does not remain constant.



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A Century of Food 1920-1929


The Roaring Twenties certainly did roar; the music was loud and the people were relatively wild compared to previous decades. They had money and found ways to spend it on new gadgets like refrigerators, toasters and stoves. The food was still luxurious and costly mainly in the fancy hotels and restaurants that had opened earlier like the Ritz Carlton, Delmonicos, the Brown Derby. Chinese food was still popular.

There She Is – Miss America

In the 1920’s America became very interested in how people looked, so beauty contests became popular. On September 7, 1921, the first Miss America Pageant, called the “Inter-City Beauty Pageant,” takes place in Atlantic City as a part of a Fall Frolic to attract tourists. There are seven contestants. Sixteen-year-old Margaret Gorman from Washington, D.C., wins the title, Miss America.  Gorman’s bust, waist and hip measurements were 30-25-32. She was five feet one inch tall, and weighed 108 pounds. She bore a striking resemblance to the popular screen actress of the era, Mary Pickford. They crowned her and wrapped her in an American flag as they paraded her around as Miss America. Samuel Gompers, the president of the American Federation of Labor, would be quoted in the New York Times remarking, “She represents the type of womanhood America needs — strong, red blooded, able to shoulder the responsibilities of homemaking and motherhood. It is in her type that the hope of the country rests.”

Margaret Gorman, Miss America 1921/Miss Distri...

Margaret Gorman, Miss America 1921/Miss District of Columbia 1921 (1st Miss America) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Prohibition Woes

What effect did Prohibition on American the food and dining habits in the 1920’s? Prohibition went into effect on America on January 16, 1920 stopping the legal sale of alcoholic beverages. It also had far-reaching effects by increasing the production and sale of soft drinks, closing many restaurants and hotels, spurred the growth of tea rooms and cafeterias
and destroyed the last vestiges of fine dining in the United States.



The fruit cocktail cup became popular appetizer menu item and was often garnished with marshmallows or sprinkled with powdered sugar. All these things could not help but have a negative effect on the American diet. In 1929, a cigarette advertisement tells women to “reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet”.

—Fashionable Foods: Seven Decades of Food Fads, Sylvia Lovgren [MacMillan:New York] 1995 (p. 29-30)

The Most Famous Salad

Early in the 1900’s, salads were considered effeminate and French. But that was going to change when they became a popular table-side tossing experience. The most famous of these presentations was the Caesar Salad. Caesar Cardini had originally operated a restaurant in San Diego, California, but relocated to Tijuana with the beginning of Prohibition. Cardini believed a fine meal required cocktails before dinner and wine with dinner and in Mexico he could offer both. The story often reported (although not verified) is that many Hollywood folks had traveled south to avoid the restrictions of prohibition and one late night of July, 4th, 1924, the kitchen in the Caesars Palace Tijuana had only a few ingredients left – namely, romaine lettuce, Romano cheese, bread, olive oil and some eggs-Voila – the birth of the Caesar salad. Other salads soon followed its popularity and even to this day, it dominates along with the Cobb salad from the Brown Derby. The history of the Cobb Salad is debatable as to whether it was in 1929 or in the 1930’s, but nevertheless it still remains tops as a luncheon or dinner salad.

Caesar Cardini

Caesar Cardini (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Greatest Thing

You’ve heard the expression, “it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread” which may be said, “the greatest thing, period”. Previously, an Iowa salesman named Otto Rohwedder had invented a machine that sliced loaves of bread but bakers thought the bread would go stale and did not accept his idea. But in 1928, Frank Bench, a baker decided to give it a try and it suddenly became popular and women loved it. Sales at his bakery increased by 2000 percent in only a short time. Another invention by a St. Louis baker, Gustav Papendick created a machine that also wrapped the loaf to prevent it from drying out and the toaster became a perfect partner.

1930 photograph from the magazine Popular Scie...

1930 photograph from the magazine Popular Science with the caption, “The new electric bread slicing machine at work in a St. Louis, Mo. bakery. The operator is holding one of the sliced loaves.” The accompanying article does not identify the bakery but this may have been the machine invented by Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, whose 2nd slicing machine was purchased by Gustav Papendick of Papendick Bakery Company in St. Louis who worked out a process to wrap the sliced loaf automatically. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Life Was Good – Almost

In 1929, life was looking good. Electricity and the resulting new appliances, sliced bread, canned and frozen food and the convenience of Gerber baby foods made life easier than it had ever been. All these could now be purchased in the new one-stop supermarket. The Alpha Beta had everything in alphabetical order making it easier for customers to shop the aisles and the A&P (the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company) was doing about $1 billion a year in business. The USDA was inspecting meat and Coca-Cola was free of coca. There was one car for every five people. Anyone who really wanted a drink could get one. Prohibition did not completely end until 1933, but it was realized that the “great experiment was not so great and was a big mistake. America was in a party mood. But alas, in October, 1929, the stock market crashed – the party was over.




Regular cheese is made from introducing bacteria into milk, then letting milk solids (curd) spoil. The liquid part (whey) is thrown away. Enter Kraft Velveeta Cheese in 1928 that is softer than Cheddar and smooth as velvet (thus the name). By putting back the whey, it’s attributes include easy slicing when chilled, easy melting and its mild taste. “A miracle wrought with milk” a 1927 ad proclaimed. “Through the aid of scientific research, we are at last able to combine in a cheese product all those precious health-giving qualities of the rich whole milk.  Pasteurization gives it a long shelf life since it is described as “a pasteurized prepared cheese product”. It doesn’t require refrigeration before opening due to its hermetically sealed foiled package similar to canning. A personal note: My dog Kori has a very discriminating palate. When we offer a bit of Velveeta, she won’t eat it but readily accepts a sharp New York Cheddar or a delectable piece of Swiss Gruyere. Doesn’t that tell us something? By the way in 1980, Tupperware made a Velveeta Keeper.



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